Opinion

Confession time: Two years ago, I couldn’t walk more than a kilometre without getting winded. I was in the worst shape of my life, the product of longstanding neglect when it came to my own physical health. And so in the spring of 2020, with the global pandemic still in its early days and working-from-home suddenly the new norm, I decided to stop being such a sloth and use the curveball life had thrown our way to start moving my feet with regularity.

Confession time: Two years ago, I couldn’t walk more than a kilometre without getting winded. I was in the worst shape of my life, the product of longstanding neglect when it came to my own physical health. And so in the spring of 2020, with the global pandemic still in its early days and working-from-home suddenly the new norm, I decided to stop being such a sloth and use the curveball life had thrown our way to start moving my feet with regularity.

It was easier said than done, at least initially. The one-kilometre mark on what would become my daily stroll, which happened to be our local community club, had a perfectly placed bus stop bench where I’d plant myself for several minutes (or longer), catching my breath before turning around and heading home. There were plenty of internal pep talks as I sat there watching the world go by, wondering just what exactly I’d gotten myself into.

Slowly but surely, the rest stops became shorter and shorter. Then, one day, they weren’t needed at all. Over time, two kilometres turned into three. Then four. Then five and sometimes six. And the walks occasionally turned into jogs of increasing lengths as well. It was truly a snowball effect, with little victories eventually becoming bigger ones, the building momentum serving as the best kind motivator.

Combined with healthier eating — the Weight Watchers food-tracking app became a staple, and my amazing, supportive wife greatly helped the cause as well — I eventually dropped 107 pounds overall, which obviously made it a heck of a lot easier to get around. More important than any number on the scale was how I began to feel. Sleep became more restful, my overall mood was more positive.

I’m now in the best of shape of my life, my mental health has greatly benefitted as well and and it feels like I can do just about anything. Including running a marathon.

Manitoba Marathon returns to traditional June date

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES						</p>																	Local runners to keep an eye out for include Nick Kosmenko, who was the fifth-best male finisher in last year’s full marathon.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Local runners to keep an eye out for include Nick Kosmenko, who was the fifth-best male finisher in last year’s full marathon.

Posted: 7:00 PM Jun. 15, 2022

The summer spectacle of the Manitoba Marathon returns in full force Sunday after being scrapped entirely in 2020 — owing to the pandemic — and then pushed back to fall in ‘21.

The marathon starts near IG Field and finishes at the 33,000-seat stadium, and, while the Blue Bombers are on the road this week, it’ll be packed with thousands of runners and spectators.

Read Full Story

I’m proud to say that I’ll be among the 6,000 extremely sweaty folks who will cross the finish line at IG Field at some point Sunday morning. No, I’m not doing the full Manitoba Marathon (42.2 kilometres), or even the half. But I have signed up for the five-kilometre "Super Run," which is a concept that would have been completely foreign to me not very long ago.

That’s about as far as I figure I can go these days before my 47-year-old knees and a touchy right ankle start to get angry and my brain starts to scream, "What the hell are we doing?" No question the hot, humid conditions will add an extra challenge, especially for those doing the longer runs. I’ll have plenty of company in my field, with approximately half of all entrants signed up for the 5K.

It’s a perfect distance, at the perfect time, to celebrate just how far I’ve come. Figuratively. And literally.

This will actually be my second time in the event. I was in the 2004 half, running all 21 kilometres in two hours and 27 minutes. I had no goal for myself entering the race other than doing the entire thing without stopping. And I managed to accomplish that, despite my longest training run leading up to it only being about 10 kilometres. I figured adrenaline would carry me the rest of the way, and I suppose it did. Barely.

I remember the incredible sense of community and joy that day as I crossed off a "bucket list" item. Ideally, I would have kept doing it year after year. But as mentioned earlier, I let myself go in the ensuing years, where diet and exercise were placed on the back-burner. But every Father’s Day a little part of me would feel a pang of jealousy for family members, friends and colleagues who were participating.

This will be the first "normal" Manitoba Marathon since 2019. The 2020 race was cancelled owing to COVID-19, and last year’s event was pushed back to the fall. I can’t wait to experience all that it entails. The excitement and buzz at the starting line. And the incredible feeling of accomplishment for the last stretch inside the 33,000-seat stadium.

Not to mention the "ice cold popsicle" the official website promises will be waiting for me. They better have orange!

"Everyone’s had their struggles over the last few years," executive director Rachel Munday told my colleague Gavin Axelrod earlier this week. "Crossing the finish line, hearing your name and seeing yourself on the screen and getting your medal, it’s gonna be really special."

It sure will be. I’m fortunate to have a platform here to tell mine, but there will be 6,000 other terrific stories among the participants on Sunday. No doubt there are many people, like myself, who are using this as part of their personal fitness journey. There will be seasoned runners and first-timers, locals and out-of-towners, young and old, families and friends.

Every single one of them has my respect and admiration.

I’m not sure exactly where I’ll go from here. While I can safely say a full marathon will never be in the cards, I won’t rule out doing another half down the road. (I did have a brief moment on Friday, as I picked up my race package the University of Manitoba, where I contemplated a last-minute switch to the 10-kilometre run. Given my complete lack of training at that distance, plus the forecast, I decided not to push my luck). Regardless, I’m just happy to be back on my feet, and am committed to doing everything I can to stay that way.

I don’t tell you any of this to brag, but rather to share the message that if I can do it, anyone can. And that it’s never too late to start, however small. As the saying goes, you have to walk before you can run. I’m proof of that.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.